AN Edinburgh medical technology firm has won £140,000 funding to support efforts to use artificial intelligence to help fight a highly deadly form of lung cancer that is more common in Scotland than in any other country.

Canon Medical Research Europe will work with data specialists on a project that aims to develop innovative ways of tackling Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma, which is linked to asbestos exposure.

Read more: Landmark legal victory in case of woman killed by second-hand asbestos on husband's overalls

Mesothelioma is seen as one of the most difficult cancers to manage due to the unusual shape of the tumours concerned.

Scotland has been found to have the highest incidence in the world. Some 217 cases were diagnosed in 2016, up from 175 in 2014.

Experts have warned Scotland faces a huge increase in asbestos-related illness. Growing numbers of people are living long enough to feel the effects of exposure to the substance in their working lives.

Read more: Asbestos expert warns ageing population will drive surge in mesothelioma deaths

The project led by Canon Medical Research Europe aims to develop a prototype champions reckon could pave the way to saving time, money and lives in the fight against cancer.

It will focus on the assessment and measurement of tumours, which can be very hard to achieve in the case of Mesothelioma.

Whereas most cancers develop in roughly spherical shape, Mesothelioma develops in a skin-like manner around the lung.

This poses huge challenges for doctors when it comes to choosing appropriate treatments and then measuring their effectiveness.

Canon Medical Research Europe, which is owned by the Japanese electronics conglomerate, said the process of measuring the spread of Mesothelioma is more time-consuming and error-prone than for other cancers.

The project aims to develop technology that rapidly and accurately measures the size of Mesothelioma tumours.This could form an important component of a precision medicine system for treating patients.

It will use date gathered through previous studies to train computers that would be capable of identifying areas of images that contain tumours.

CMRE hopes the technology could also help slash the cost of developing suitable drugs by speeding up the testing process.

President Dr Ken Sutherland noted: “MPM is a terrible condition for those that are unfortunate enough to suffer from it, and we believe that an automated assessment method using AI would be a major advance in fighting this disease and, potentially, other forms of lung cancer.”

Canon Medical Research Europe is working with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde on the AI project.

A renowned Mesothelioma expert at the NHS body, Dr Kevin Blyth, said: “MPM is an exceptionally challenging cancer to start with, but the possibilities are enormous using Canon Medical’s technology and our clinical and research input.”

Canon Medical Research Europe draws on the imaging expertise developed by Edinburgh university spin-out Voxar, which was acquired by Toshiba in 2009. Canon bought medical visualisation systems operations from Toshiba in 2016.

The project won backing under the Scottish Government-funded Cancer Innovation Challenge. This aims to inspire data and technology innovations to help Scotland become a world leader in cancer care. It is supported by innovation centres tasked with supporting transformational collaboration between universities and businesses, led by the Data Lab.